Sudan army poised to cut off rebels in the south: Government offensive is slap in the face for peace initiatives, writes Richard Dowden in Kansuk

BARRING divine intervention, the Sudanese army will shortly retake the last towns in the south held by rebel forces, establish its presence along the roads linking them and cut the rebels off from Uganda, their haven and supply route.

The long expected offensive began last week, and government forces are reported to be moving from Yei southwards to the Ugandan border at Kaya and are trying to retake Mundri, one of the last towns in the south held by the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). They are also reported to be moving south from Juba towards Nimule to close the last road from Uganda, which serves as the main supply route of John Garang's faction of the SPLA.

Two years ago the SPLA controlled most of southern Sudan, but a calamitous split in the movement in 1992 allowed the government to retake almost all the towns and roads. This has set back the south's cause but will probably not destroy it, as the SPLA will revert to bush guerrilla warfare. As in most African wars, it will be the rural population that suffers. More than 100,000 people are expected to move southwards towards or across the Uganda border in coming days. Many are already living in displacement camps, having fled their homes because of war or drought.

The government offensive is a slap in the face for the many peace initiatives attempted by the international community in recent months, but the fighting is unlikely to be as dramatic as US diplomats in Nairobi described on Saturday. In a new-found public concern about the 10-year-old war in southern Sudan, David Shinn, roving US ambassador for the Horn of Africa, said in a press statement: 'The US government deplores the recent air attacks by the Sudanese government on civilian populations . . . The unconscionable assaults demonstrate a total disregard for the lives of innocent people . . . and undermine the ongoing humanitarian relief efforts.'

The statement said the attacks contravened humanitarian principles. Mr Shinn listed the 4 February bombing of Mundri two days after it was removed from the list of destinations agreed by the government and the SPLA where food aid could be safely delivered by the United Nations. He also spoke of fierce fighting around Mundri and attacks on a refugee camp by militias armed by the government.

Commander Scopas Loboro, the SPLA regional commander here, said government forces had attacked southwards from Yei but that 'our policy is to withdraw and save our soldiers and their weapons. Holding towns or any other areas is not our aim.'

There are unlikely to be any pitched battles therefore, and the bombing is conducted at high altitude by Russian-made Antonov aircraft, from which bombs are rolled by hand. Attacks have also been made by Chinese-built MiG-19 aircraft strafing roads and villages.

None of the patients at the hospital at Kajo Keji is a victim of war. The displacement camp here, which already holds 10,000 people, is a natural destination for anyone fleeing fighting but yesterday there were no new arrivals and no reports of refugees on the road. The arming of 'militias' by the government is a worrying development because it will exacerbate ethnic and tribal tensions in the area. The SPLA has already split along tribal lines and further defeats are atomising the movement, threatening the region with chaos and banditry.

A senior official of the World Food Programme visited the UN base here yesterday to ensure it was ready for a new influx of fleeing people - but there was no sign of flight yet.

The biggest concentration of displaced people in southern Sudan is about 30 miles north of Nimule, on the road to Juba, at three camps known as Triple A. They hold more than 100,000 people. These are all Dinka people who fled from their home area more than 200 miles north of Juba two years ago. Yesterday the relief wing of the SPLA, the Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Association, said that 70,000 from two of these camps would move to Laboni, just north of Nimule.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BC2

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Linux Systems Administrator

£33000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly successfu...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice